Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Have yourself a jazzy, merry Christmas

Best wishes to you, your families and friends for a very Merry Christmas 2018, joyous New Year - and hopeful 2019 - from the Jazz Notes staff.  

A toast to you all as we share some vintage musical cheer from among our holiday favorites. Raise your glass, whatever your favorite libation!

The holiday season would not be complete without the delightful animated video of The Drifters’ doo-wopping their way through “White Christmas” with feeling. 

This animated cartoon by Joshua Held is excellent - and quite special.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

A fine ambassador for the Great American Songbook - and more

To many fans, Danny Sinoff is a crooner for the new millennium. But to savvy jazz listeners, his piano chops are just fascinating. Maybe more so. He underscored his talent on both fronts on Friday, December 21, in a matinee concert for the South County Jazz Club in Venice FL with his regular trio-mates, bassist Scott Smith and drummer Patrica Dean.
Smith, Sinoff

The program included a wide array of Broadway and movie soundtrack material. Five of the standards were written by Cole Porter, a reminder of how prolific he and many other Tin Pan Alley composers were through the years.

Instrumental treats included “(There is) No Greater Love,” “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “That’s All,” a bossa-nova version of Porter’s “I Concentrate on You” and a version of “You Don’t Know What Love Is” that hinted at or teased with the melody from start to finish

While Sinoff is a fine ambassador for the Great American Songbook, he also knows how to dig deep into jazz standards. The second set included a romp through the John Lewis tune “D and E,” a 12-bar blues recorded by the Modern Jazz Quartet and intensified on pianist Oscar Peterson’s We Get Requests trio album. Sinoff & Co. turned it into a Peterson tribute.
Patricia Dean

Dean was featured on vocals on two tunes, “I Don’t Know Enough About You” and “Guess Who I Saw Today?,” the latter in memory of singer Nancy Wilson, who died earlier this month. Sinoff ended the program with a terrific piano-and-vocals uptempo take on Porter’s “It’s Alright With Me.”

In the spirit of the season, the program also included Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmas Time is Here” and a vocal version of the classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

The concert was held at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Venice.

Dean, Smith, Sinoff

Monday, December 17, 2018

2018's best jazz recordings

‘Tis the season for the outpouring of Top 10 lists, and their many variations, for jazz, world events, etc. The jazz lists tend to have a lot of variation depending on the individual reviewer's personal tastes, as well as what he or she listened to during the year.* Bottom line, all are extremely subjective.

These choices below (aside from top 10 new songs of the year) were submitted to the Jazz Journalists’ Association and NPR Music 2018 compilations. (The latter is the annual Francis Davis-produced poll that previously was published by The Village Voice and Rhapsody.com).

As I begin preparing my review of significant events and trends in jazz in 2018 for All About Jazz, I thought I'd share my "best of 2018" lists. *Always keep in mind the above caveats.

The 10 best new jazz releases of 2018

  1. Jeff Hamilton Trio, Live from San Pedro (Capri)
  2. Benjamin Boone and Philip Levine, The Poetry of Jazz (Origin)
  3. Lynne Arriale Trio, Give Us These Days (Challenge)
  4. Eric Alexander, Song of No Regrets (HighNote)
  5. Benito Gonzalez, Gerry Gibbs, Essiet Okon Essiet Passion Reverence Transcendence (Whaling City Sound)
  6. Fred Hersch Trio, Live in Europe (Palmetto)
  7. Yelena Eckemoff, Desert (L&H)
  8. Mica Bethea Big Band, Suite Theory (self-produced)
  9. Roxy Coss, The Future Is Female (Posi-Tone)
  10. Dongfeng Liu, China Carib (Zoho)

2018’s best vocal recording:
Amy Cervini, No One Ever Tells You (Anzic)

The best historical/reissues of 2018 (includes any recordings made over 10 years ago, whether newly released or reissued):
1.     John Coltrane, Both Directions at Once: The Lost Sessions (Verve)
2.     Esbjorn Svensson Trio, E.S.T. Live in London (ACT)
3.     Fred Hersch Trio, '97 @ The Village Vanguard (self-produced)

2018’s best Latin/Brazilian jazz recordings:
1.     Dafnis Prieto Big Band, Back to the Sunset (Dafnison)
2.     Bobby Sanabria, West Side Story Revimagined (JazzHeads)
3.     Antonio Adolfo, Encontros - Orquestra Atlantica (AAM)
4.     Akira Tana, JAZZaNOVA (Vega)
5.     Eddie Daniels, Heart of Brazil (Resonance)

The 10 best new compositions from CDs released in 2018, listed alphabetically:

  • Lynne Arriale, “Appassionata” from Give Us These Days (Challenge)
  • Benjamin Boone, The Unknowable (Homage to Sonny Rollins)” from Benjamin Boone and Philip Levine, The Poetry of Jazz (Origin)
  • Roxy Coss, “Females are Strong as Hell” from The Future Is Female (Posi-Tone)
  • Yelena Eckemoff, “Bedouins” from Desert (L&H)
  • Thomas Fonnesbæk, “Panic Attack” from Fonnesbæk and Kauflin, Synesthesia (Storyville)
  • Ken Fowser, “Coming Up Shorter” from Don’t Look Down (Posi-Tone)
  • Benito Gonzalez, “Brazilian Girls” from Benito Gonzalez, Gerry Gibbs, Essiet Okon Essiet Passion Reverence Transcendence (Whaling City Sound)
  • Fred Hersch, “Newklypso” from Fred Hersch Trio, Live in Europe (Palmetto)
  • Monika Herzig, “Nancy Wilson Portrait” from Sheroes (Whaling City Sound)
  • Dongfeng Liu, “Colorful Clouds Chasing the Moon” from China Carib (Zoho)

Saturday, December 15, 2018

In the holiday spirit - part 2

Nate Najar's Jazz Holiday merrymakers rolled into Sarasota on Friday evening, December 14, for a South County Jazz Club concert at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center.
Nate Najar

The quintet, pared down from a septet on Thursday in St. Petersburg, included Najar on acoustic, finger-picked guitar, reed player Adrian Cunningham, trumpeter James Suggs, bassist John Lamb and drummer Mark Feinman.

The concert fare was quite similar to the show the night before. The intimacy of the 200-seat Glenridge, the superb acoustics and lighting enhanced the fine show. 

Here are some favorite images:
Adrian Cunningham, James Suggs

Mark Feinman

John Lamb

Nate Najar, John Lamb

James Suggs

Lamb, Cunningham

Adrian Cunningham
Najar, Cunningham, Lamb, Suggs, Feinman

Friday, December 14, 2018

In the holiday spirit, jazz style.

Guitarist Nate Najar’s Jazz Holiday has become a seasonal tradition in Southwest Florida. He started the concert in St. Petersburg, where the 13th annual edition was held last night at The Palladium Theater's Hough Hall.

Ex-Ellington bassist John Lamb, drummer Mark Feinman and trumpet marvel James Suggs are regulars in this event, with Nate drawing on an array of visiting talent to expand the group. 

This year's special guests were tenor saxophonist/clarinetist/flutist and singer Adrian Cunningham, an Aussie jazz musician now based in New York, and alto saxophonist Dmitry Baevsky, a Russian-born musician now living in Paris. Brazilian singer Daniela Soledade, who recently moved to the Tampa Bay area, joined the band for several numbers.

The evening coursed between holiday fare, jazz chestnuts and bossa novas. My favorites included the band's take on "Mistletoe and Holly," first recorded in 1957 by its co-writer, Frank Sinatra, and their idyllic version of Gil Evans arrangement of Claude Thornhill's theme, "Snowfall."

Nate brings the holiday cheer to Sarasota tonight, without Baevsky in the lineup. This concert at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center, is sponsored by the South County Jazz Club. This will be at least the sixth year he has done this event in Sarasota.

Here are a few images from Thursday's fine event, which drew a crowd of about 500.
Lamb, Najar, Feinman, Cunningham, Baevsky, Suggs
Baevsky, Suggs

Adrian Cunningham 
Daniela Soledade, Adrian Cunningham 

Lamb, Najar, Cunningham 
Najar, Lamb, Cunningham, Baevsky

Thursday, December 13, 2018

CDs of Note – Short Takes

Taking a look at new CDs by Bootsie Barnes & Larry McKenna, Al Basile, Amy Cervini, the Uli Geissendoerfer trio and Christopher Hollyday….

Bootsie Barnes & Larry McKenna, The More I See You (Cellar Live)
Philadelphia has always been a hotbed of jazz. The city that has produced more than its fair share of excellent musicians – and remains the epicenter of the B-3 organ tradition. This project teams Philly’s two reigning tenor sax titans – Bootsie Barnes and Larry McKenna – in an organ quartet with B-3 player Lucas Brown and drummer Byron “Wookie” Landham. The two octogenarian saxophonists are in fine form here on a mix of Great American Songbook standards and jazz chestnuts, as well as a pair of originals. They go head-to-head on seven of nine tracks, with McKenna featured solo on “You’ve Changed” and Barnes on Kurt Weill’s “My Ship.” The give-and-take by all of the band members in excellent. My favorite tracks are the two originals: Barnes’ hard-swinging “Three Miles Out” and McKenna’s closer, “Don’t Redux the Reflux.”

Al Basile, Me & the Originator (Sweetspot) 
Singer-songwriter, cornetist and poet Al Basile has long straddled the line between traditional jazz and the blues. This latest recording, principally a blues project, can best be categorized as “beyond category.” Basile took a dozen of his poems, then wrote songs related to or inspired by them. Another chapter of the story if you will. And he preceded them all with a clever story about a trunk found in an attic – filled with poems by an anonymous wordsmith he calls “the Originator.” They are poems that the protagonist in this tale turned into music. On Me & the Originator, each song by Al and his band is followed by him narrating the poem related to it. This is best listened to straight-through to savor its full effect. One tune in particular stands out. “She Made Me Believe It” will have you sitting up to listen close and chuckling at its clever message. That one got me, but believe me, they’re all gems. Longtime collaborator Duke Robillard produced the session and plays guitar throughout.

Amy Cervini, No One Ever Tells You (Posi-Tone)
It’s bluesy, gritty and swinging. And it’s one of the finest jazz vocal projects I’ve heard in a while. Amy Cervini’s latest CD, No One Ever Tells You, digs into songs about love, despair and strength. Her exquisite blues-tinged takes on a wide range of popular songs and blues standards are bolstered by the band here. It features guitarist Jesse Lewis, pianist Michael Cabe, bassist Matt Aronoff and drummer Jared Schonig. B-3 player Gary Versace adds much on four tracks, including Cervini’s opening original, “I Don’t Know” and a organ-vocals duet on “One For My Baby (and One More For the Road).” She’s turned gems from the songbooks of Blossom Dearie, Lyle Lovett, Percy Mayfield, Frank Sinatra and Bessie Smith, and others, into her own anthem.

Uli Geissendoerfer Trio, Long Way Home (Vegas) 
There is something special about the power trio in jazz, consisting of high-energy players who blend their talents into something even greater than the sum of their three parts.The resulting music is often intense, swings likes mad – but is also capable of delicacy and nuance when the situation calls for it. Such is this project from Las Vegas-based pianist Uli Geissendorfer’s project with bassist Dave Ostrem and drummer Angelo Stokes. Favorite tracks: the bluesy “Urban Cowboy” and the quirky “Monk’s Mouse”. The project opens and closes with Beatles material that has some Geissendorfer twists. The opener pairs “Here Comes the Sun” with a vamp extension of the pianist’s design. The closer makes a medley of “Blackbird” and “Come Together” that blends mixed meters and other juxtapositions.

Christopher Hollyday, Telepathy (Jazzbeat) 
Alto saxophonist Christopher Hollyday had a significant profile as a teenage jazz prodigy from the mid 1980s into the early ‘90s. Then the hard bopper vanished from the jazz scene. He married, moved from New England to San Diego and became a music educator. Now he’s out of the classroom and is performing again, often in groups with trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos. This is his first recording in more than 25 years. Telepathy draws its title from the musical connection he has with Castellanos. Together they soar in unison and separate solos on a half-dozen jazz chestnuts and popular standards, supported by pianist Joshua White, bassist Rob Thorsen and drummer Tyler Kreutel. The bop tracks include Freddie Hubbard’s “One of a Kind,” Bud Powell’s “Hallucinations” and Charlie Parker’s “Segment.” The standards are “Everything Happens to Me,” “Autumn in New York” and “I’ve Got the World on a String.” This is a dandy.

Here are some other 2018 gems you should check out, which I haven’t had time to review this year:

  • Antonio Adolfo, Encontros (AAM)
  • Bobby Broom, Soul Fingers (MRI Entertainment)
  • Rob Dixon, Coast to Crossroads (self-produced)
  • Jared Gold, Emergence (Strikezone)
  • Brad Goode Quintet with Ernie Watts, That’s Right! (Origin)
  • Carlos Henriquez, Dizzy Con Clave (Rodbros)
  • Art Hirahara, Sunward Bound (Posi-Tone)
  • Dan Moretti, Invoke (Dodicilune)
  • Ben Paterson, Live at Van Gelder’s (Cellar Live)
  • Dafnis Prieto Big Band, Back to the Sunset (Dafnison)
  • John Proulx, Say It (self-produced)